Shelby Steele, the Robert J. and Marion E. Oster Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, writes in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal that GOP candidates for the presidency next year have no chance against a “confused and often overwhelmed” President Obama.

Steele, the author of “White Guilt,” suggests that the GOP’s disadvantage has little to do with substance and everything to do with race, because Obama’s presidency “flatters America to a degree that no white Republican can hope to compete with.”

According to Steele, Obama becoming “the most powerful black man in recorded history” is a direct result of American exceptionalism, making him “an extraordinary personification of the American Dream: Even someone from a race associated with slavery can rise to the presidency.”

Regardless of the kind of national pride this may invoke, it’s bad for Republicans, he says.

All of this adds up to a powerful racial impressionism that works against today's field of Republican candidates. This is the impressionism that framed Sen. John McCain in 2008 as a political and cultural redundancy — yet another older white male presuming to lead the nation.

The point is that anyone who runs against Mr. Obama will be seen through the filter of this racial impressionism, in which white skin is redundant and dark skin is fresh and exceptional. This is the new cultural charisma that the president has introduced into American politics.

What the GOP can do, according to Steele, is celebrate the exceptionalism he embodies but “deny him the right to ride on it as a kind of affirmative action.”